USS dispute – FAQs

faqThis has been drawn up by local officers in response to questions raised by members.  We hope you find them helpful.  If these do not answer your question please email bram.mertens@nottingham.ac.uk or andreas.beiler@nottingham.ac.uk and they will respond to your specific issue:

Q: What is covered by the marking and assessment boycott?

A: The boycott covers any work that would lead to the awarding of a formal mark at all levels, which includes setting, approving, marking, second-marking or moderating any kind of coursework, written and oral examinations. Formative oral or written feedback to students is seen as part of teaching and therefore not included in the boycott.

Q: Are viva voce PhD examinations covered by the boycott?

A: Yes, if you are an internal examiner. No, if you are an external examiner. The boycott applies only to work performed for your principal employer, not to work you may perform for other institutions. If you have any outstanding duties as an external examiner, you may of course choose to postpone them as an act of solidarity, but this would not constitute industrial action. If you choose to go ahead with your task as an external examiner, you should be especially vigilant that academic standards have not been compromised as a result of institutions seeking to circumvent the boycott. UCU has produced a briefing note for this purpose:

(http://defenduss.web.ucu.org.uk/files/2011/09/ucu_ussaction_externalexaminers_briefing.pdf)

Q: Why should I notify the University that I am taking part in the marking and assessment boycott?

A: You should notify Human Resources of your participation in the action as they have asked members to do so in their e-mail of 6 November.

Q: When should I notify the University that I am taking part in the marking and assessment boycott?

A: Human Resources have asked all members to notify them of their participation by filling in an online form ‘on 6 November 2014 or as early as possible prior to your intention to participate in ASOS or on the date the action commences at the latest’. It is our recommendation that you fill in this form ‘on the date the action commences’, that is to say on the day that you first refuse to perform work that would lead to the awarding of a formal mark. An example of this would be the day that you receive a batch of essays, or the day that you would have ordinarily expected to start marking said batch of essays.

Q: Should I notify my Head of School or Department that I am taking part in the marking and assessment boycott?

A: As a matter of courtesy, members may notify their Head of School or Department of their participation in the boycott, but having notified Human Resources, there is no need to separately notify your School or Department.

Q: What should I do about scheduled assessment events like oral exams?

A: If you do not have a batch of essays on your desk that you are refusing to mark, but you are scheduled to be involved in oral examinations on a limited number of days, for instance, then your participation in the boycott is not continuous. In that case, we recommend that you notify HR that you are taking part in the boycott on the day that you first refuse to take part in oral exams, for instance, and notify them that your participation in the boycott ends on the last day of these scheduled exams. If you are not scheduled to take part in any assessment activities, you cannot boycott them. If at any point these assessment activities are rescheduled and the boycott is still ongoing, you should again notify HR of your participation in the boycott as before.

Q: How much of my pay is the University withholding for participation in the marking and assessment boycott?

A: The University will withhold 25% of pay from the date you announce your participation in the action at a rate of 1/260th per day (pro rata). In order to avoid any ambiguity, we therefore recommend you only announce your participation on the day that it starts and not before. 260 is the number of weekdays in the year minus one, so this model assumes that staff never work at weekends.

Q: Why is the University withholding 25% of my pay when marking does not take 25% of my time?

A: The University’s decision to withhold 25% of pay is in line with many other institutions: it is less generous than some, but less punitive than others. At this point, we have not been informed of the rationale behind this number. We recommend that members participating in the boycott make it clear on the notification form that they would not have expected marking to take up 25% of their time and that, even when taking part in the boycott, they would not have expected to be involved in assessment activity continuously from that point onwards.

Q: Will I be compensated by the union for the financial losses I will incur as a consequence of participation in the assessment boycott?

A: Nationally UCU is hoping to offer financial support to members who participate in the action but its first priority is likely to be those members in other institutions who have been deducted 100% of pay because of their participation in the boycott. The Nottingham branch will lobby for additional support for all members who participate in the action and is also establishing a local solidarity fund (check back on this site for details). Members should not, however, plan on the assumption that the union will be able to cover all financial losses incurred by individual union members.

Q: What is the timetable for negotiations?

A: The whole valuation process can take a maximum of 15 months; therefore the current valuation needs to be completed by the USS Board by 30 June 2015. We anticipate the following timetable:

Event Date Note
USS JNC meeting 13 November Joint Negotiating Committee meeting with Universities UK representatives.
USS Board meeting 20 November Finalise technical provisions, agree terms for formal consultations (60 days) on changes
Negotiation period ends January 2015 National level negotiation with UCU to develop an agreed proposal for changes ends
Consultation with all USS members Feb-March 2015 Pension schemes are required to formally consult all scheme members about proposed changes to scheme rules
USS Board meeting March 2015 Possibly finalise/ratify changes
Deadline for recovery plan June 2015 USS Trustees must present recovery plan to the Pension Regulator
Scheme changes April 2016 Employers’ Pension Forum provisional implementation target (subject to negotiation)

http://defenduss.web.ucu.org.uk/assessment-boycott-faqs/

 

 

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